donderdag 13 juni 2013

Nieuwe Palestijnse premier krijgt lof van USA

... maar het kan ook vooral diplomatiek bedoeld zijn. John Kerry wil immers koste wat het kost het vredesoverleg hervat zien.
Khaled Abu Toameh was vorige week vrij sceptisch over de nieuwe premier:

Yet more important than getting rid of Fayyad was finding an uncharismatic and inexperienced figure who would play the role of the loyal and dutiful servant of Abbas and Fatah leaders.

If getting rid of Fayyad was a victory, the appointment of Hamdallah, a "yes man" with no political experience, is even a bigger achievement.

Washington praises choice of new Palestinian PM
Kerry says appointment of Rami Hamdallah comes at ‘important moment of opportunity’
Washington lauded the choice of a new Palestinian prime minister Sunday, saying that Rami Hamdallah‘s appointment came at a challenging time but that it created an opportunity.

US Secretary of State John Kerry congratulated Hamdallah in a statement Sunday night, hours after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced he had asked the university chief and English professor to form a new government.

“Together, we can choose the path of a negotiated two-state settlement that will allow Palestinians to fulfill their legitimate aspirations, and continue building the institutions of a sovereign and independent Palestinian state that will live in peace, security, and economic strength alongside Israel,” the statement by Kerry said.

Kerry is hoping to win Israeli approval for Palestinian economic projects in the West Bank. Salam Fayyad, a respected economist who was forced out of the prime minister’s office earlier this year, was considered key to overseeing the projects.

Kerry also thanked Fayyad for his years of working “tirelessly to build effective Palestinian institutions.”

While Fayyad came from the small reformist Third Way party and often found himself on the wrong side of Abbas, Hamdallah, 55, is a member of Abbas’s Fatah party and is expected to be more pliant toward the Muqata.

Though he has no prior political or government experience, Hamdallah‘s loyalty to Abbas may make it easier for Ramallah to push through the types of projects Kerry envisions as jump-starting the Palestinian economy.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Jordan last week, Kerry announced a financial initiative aimed at pumping $4 billion into the flailing Palestinian economy as a means toward pushing the Palestinians into peace negotiations with Israel.

Ramallah, which insists on a settlement freeze before talks, has officially been cold toward the idea of making political concessions in exchange for financial incentives, however.

The appointment means that Palestinians are unlikely to head to elections any time soon, keeping Abbas in power as head of the PA. His term was supposed to end in 2009.

Palestinians have faced political stagnation since the Islamic militant Hamas seized power in the Gaza Strip five years ago. Efforts to heal the rift and hold elections in both territories have repeatedly failed.


Israel zou 1.000 gevangenen vrij moeten laten om vredesoverleg vlot te trekken, zegt Shin Bet oudgediende

Je zou zeggen: als ze in ruil voor Shalit 1.000 gevangenen vrij kunen laten -waaronder veel moordenaars-, dan kan het ook om het vredesoverleg vlot te trekken, zeker ook omdat Israel hierin zelf de keus zou kunnen maken wie ze vrij laten. Maar ook hier zullen veel moordenaars tussen zitten, en de families van de slachtoffers zullen nog feller protesteren als onzeker is wat het op zou leveren...
Israel should free 1,000 security prisoners, says ex-Shin Bet official
Arie Livne, who held a position equivalent to the army’s OC Southern Command, says such a move would jump-start peace talks
The key to reconciliation, even with Hamas, is the release of prisoners, and Israel today could safely release approximately a quarter to a third of the 4,500 Palestinian security prisoners behind bars in Israel, a former top security agency official told The Times of Israel.

“Out of the 4,500 we could release 1,000 tomorrow,” said Arie Livne, the former head of interrogations at the Shin Bet and the commander of the greater Gaza region during the Second Intifada.

Livne, known locally as “Leybo,” described the release of prisoners as “the best lever toward progress in negotiations,” and said, while looking at an unclassified website’s chart of Palestinian prisoners incarcerated in Israel, “the list can be analyzed. Who they are. What they did. We could let a third of them go.”

Livne, who seemed intimate with much of the Palestinian leadership and the nature of their prison sentences in Israel, said that the matter of prisoner releases cuts to the heart of the conflict. “Every single [Palestinian] family has a first-degree relative who did time,” he explained.

His comments were made before Avi Issacharoff revealed in The Times of Israel on Monday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered to free 50 Palestinian security prisoners who have been held since before the Oslo Accords in the mid-’90s in an attempt to restart peace talks with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas – who rejected the offer and is reportedly demanding that all 107 pre-Oslo prisoners be released, including those convicted of murder, before coming to the table.

Livne, currently a fellow at the Interdisciplinary Center’s International Institute for Counter-Terrorism, asserted that it is in Israel’s interest “to initiate [a prisoner release] and not to cave under pressure.” It is a well-known fact, he added, “that a resolution of the conflict will mean letting all of the prisoners go.”

He then corrected himself and said that perhaps several exceptions could be agreed upon.

A bear-like, convivial man, alternately eating jam off the blade of his knife long after his croissant was gone and showing pictures of his grandchildren on his cellphone, Livne spoke about the changes in the region and the way they have affected Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.

He rejected the notion of Hamas seeing itself as a harbinger of the Arab Spring – i.e., an Islamist regime that overthrew its quasi-secular and fully corrupt predecessor in Gaza — and said that, at least for now, Hamas was prepared to reconcile with the PA. “In my opinion Hamas has adopted the PLO doctrine, the step-by-step system [a willingness to cut a deal now with the understanding that it is one stage in a larger campaign],” he said, noting that the organization needed time to build its strength and was therefore primed for resolving its feud with the PA and perhaps with Israel.

Addressing the international picture, he described “an essential change” in Hamas’s alliances and said that the rift in the Iran-Hezbollah-Damascus-Hamas pact – shattered by the Syrian civil war — and the new alliance with Egypt, Turkey and Qatar was “much better as far as Israel is concerned.”

Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi, he said, is an Islamist who shares Hamas’s ideology but is “utterly dependent on the West,” and therefore when he demands quiet from Hamas “it is much more comfortable for Hamas to say ‘we are abiding by Egyptian requests,’ as though they were answering the call of a wider Islamist agenda.”

The new alliance also opened channels of communication that were hardly available in the past. “Practically speaking, we have an emergency channel,” he said. “Say there’s word of a planned abduction. Who did you talk to in the past? The US? Egypt? Today there is who to talk to.”

Those channels, he suggested, should now be used to float the idea of a mass prisoner release, perhaps jump-starting peace talks that even Hamas might agree to. “Reconciliation is possible at this point in time,” he said. “Will it last? That’s uncertain. But it’s possible.”


Abbas wees aanbod af om 50 terroristen vrij te laten voor begin onderhandelingen

Abbas wil dat Israel ruim 100 oud-gediende terroristen vrijlaat, alleen maar voor een audiëntie bij de Palestijnse president. Van vredesonderhandelingen is dan nog geen sprake...
Abbas rejected Netanyahu offer to free 50 pre-Oslo prisoners for new talks
PM made the proposal a year ago, but Abbas insisted all the 'veterans' go free — in return for a single meet with the PM, at which he'd set out his terms for negotiations
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last year offered to free 50 Palestinian security prisoners who have been held since before the Oslo Accords of the early 1990s, in a bid to get Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to come back to the peace table, The Times of Israel has learned.

However, Abbas rejected the offer.

Today, a senior Palestinian official told The Times of Israel, the Palestinians might agree to renew talks with Israel if Netanyahu releases all 107 of the pre-Oslo veterans still in jail, most of whom have blood on their hands.

The Prime Minister's Office had no comment on the matter.

The Palestinian official's comments came as US Secretary of State John Kerry prepared to head back to the region for his fifth visit in four months, as he bids to cajole Netanyahu and Abbas to return to the negotiating table.

The Palestinian official, who asked not to be named, is one of Abbas's close associates. He said that the release of all the pre-Oslo "veterans" is a "strategic" requirement for the PA. Choosing his words carefully, he said their release could prove sufficient to bring the PA back to the peace table, but he refused to say so explicitly, and could not rule out additional Palestinian conditions. In the past, Abbas has indicated that he would not return to the talks while Israel continued building new settlement homes, and figures released on Sunday showed a sharp rise in building starts at settlements in the first three months of this year.

In the course of previous efforts to get the asides back to the table, The Times of Israel has learned, Netanyahu expressed willingness to release 50 of the long-serving prisoners arrested before the Oslo Accords. The Israeli proposal was to free the 50 in three stages: 25 prisoners, then 15, then 10. These releases were contingent on a resumption not merely of talks between the two sides, but of direct meetings by Abbas with Netanyahu.

However, the Palestinians rejected the idea. According to senior Palestinian sources, the release of only 50 prisoners of the pre-Oslo security prisoners was unacceptable, and all had to go free.

The contacts over this proposal were conducted by the head of the PLO negotiating team, Saeb Erekat, and the prime minister's special envoy for talks with the Palestinians, Yitzhak Molcho. Messages were also sent to Jordan's King Abdullah, whose kingdom hosted various talks between Israel and the PA. At one point, a special representative from Netanyahu went to Amman to the present the Israeli proposal to the king.

Prior to the offer of 50 releases, Israel had offered to release smaller numbers of the pre-Oslo veterans. Israel's initial proposal was to free only five or six prisoners, but that number went up over time. A later proposal was to free 25 prisoners in several phases, again conditioned on direct Netanyahu-Abbas meetings, with five more prisoners to go free after each such meeting.

Abbas, for his part, did agree to meet with Netanyahu — but only if all pre-Oslo prisoners were released, and not as part of resumed peace talks. Rather, Abbas was willing to meet Netanyahu, after all the prisoners were freed, in order to make clear to Netanyahu, face-to-face, his terms for restarting the negotiations.

It is understood that the Israeli security establishment has no objections on security grounds to the release of the 107 pre-Oslo veterans, particularly in light of the release of 1,027 Palestinian security prisoners to Hamas as part of the deal that saw the release of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit from Hamas captivity in Gaza in October 2011.


Israel en God meest controversiële onderwerpen op Wikipedia

Wikipedia reflecteert vooral de meest populaire opvattingen over controversiële onderwerpen, en bij kleine taalgebieden als het Nederlandse krijg je al gauw onevenwichtigheid omdat een kleine groep er de dienst uitmaakt. De Engelstalige Wikipedia is dan ook in bij verre de meeste gevallen niet alleen uitvoeriger maar vooral ook gebalanceerder; ook omdat mensen uit de hele wereld hieraan bijdragen. In de Nederlandse versie kom ik regelmatig ontzettend slechte en eenzijdige artikelen tegen, en niet alleen over Israel.
Wikipedians most likely to war over 'Israel,' 'God'
Researchers collate info across languages to see which articles get the most edits, with unsurprising results
"Israel" and "God," along with "Adolf Hitler" and "Holocaust," are among the most contested and controversial topics on Wikipedia, a new study has found.

A chapter in a book set for release in 2014, "The most controversial topics in Wikipedia: A multilingual and geographical analysis," collates data on the number of edits each articles received on the user-written online encyclopedia across a variety of languages, according to a report in Wired.

The data includes an analysis of controversial topics in the Hebrew Wikipedia edition, showing users mostly divided over religious sects and armed conflicts.

The only edition of Wikipedia in which the Israel entry was among the top 10 most contentious topics was the Czech one. Hitler only made the list in the German version. Nevertheless, when it came to controversy across languages, both were among the most contended topics, according to the chapter, pre-published online late last month at the ArXiv website.

"The Spanish and Czech (as well as all languages in our sample apart from Hungarian, Romanian, Japanese, and Chinese) include articles in Israel as some of those characterised by the greatest amount of conflict," the researchers wrote. The preoccupation with the Middle East, they said, was an exception to the general rule that each version of Wikipedia tended to deal with local or culture-specific issues.

Researchers, led by Oxford's Taha Yasseri, also found that "…the Israel and Adolf Hitler pages are the most highly contested pages" in all three groupings into which they had divided the languages under examination.

In Hebrew, the most controversial topics were based around the Chabad Hasidic sect, though the 2006 Lebanon War, an entry titled "Gaza War," Benjamin Netanyahu and the left-wing B'Tselem NGO also prove highly divisive, according to the research.

When comparing the most contested topics between the Hebrew, Farsi and Arabic versions of the encyclopedia, the researchers discovered that a number of articles served as battlefields. "Gaza war," "Israel" and "Islam" were being constantly edited in all three languages. The information related to Hitler was being fought over on the Farsi and Hebrew pages, while Arabic users seemed to find consensus.

Other Wikipedia articles that ranked high in contentiousness include "God," "Atheism," "Circumcision" and "Jesus."

Aside from Yasseri, the paper was authored by Anselm Spoerri from Rutgers University, Mark Graham from Oxford and Janos Kertesz Budapest University.

The chapter will be included in "Global Wikipedia: International and cross-cultural issues in online collaboration," to be published by Scarecrow Press next year.


Netanyahu bevriest bouwplannen Oost-Jeruzalem

De bouwplannen in Ramat Shlomo die twee jaar geleden werden aangekondigd tijdens het bezoek van Joe Biden, zijn ongeveer door de Israelische goedkeuringsprocedures heen, maar Netanyahu zou opdracht hebben gegeven ze vooralsnog niet definitief goed te keuren. Afgelopen november werden na de statusverhoging van Palestina in de VN nog nieuwe bouwplannen in "E 5" (bij Ma'aleh Adumim) aangekondigd, maar deze zullen eveneens nog jaren op zich laten wachten, als ze er al ooit komen. Er zijn sinds begin dit jaar ook geen bouwplannen meer goedgekeurd schijnt het. Toch is met de bouw van in totaal 865 nieuwe woningen op de Westoever begonnen in het eerste kwartaal van dit jaar, van plannen die naar het schijnt eind vorig jaar zijn goedgekeurd.
Bouwplannen in gebieden die waarschijnlijk na een vredesakkoord in een Palestijnse staat komen te liggen, lijken vooral kapitaalverspilling te zijn, tenzij ze dan aan de Palestijnse staat worden overgedragen, maar de Palestijnen zullen liever zelf bepalen waar en hoe ze bouwen.
Netanyahu said to freeze ‘sensitive’ Jerusalem construction
Project in East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo sparked a diplomatic row with the US during Biden’s visit in 2010
The construction of 1,500 apartments in an East Jerusalem neighborhood has reportedly been held up by the Interior Ministry on orders from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, because the project is a diplomatic minefield.

The final paperwork required to begin construction of the apartments in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood has been stuck in the ministry for over three weeks, Army Radio reported Monday.

The construction of the apartments was announced in May 2010 during a visit to Israel by US Vice President Joe Biden, causing a diplomatic flurry.

Ramat Shlomo, located on land captured by Israel during the 1967 Six-Day War, has a large, established ultra-Orthodox community and the apartments constitute an expansion plan for the neighborhood.

The Jerusalem Regional Planning Committee approved the plan five months ago, on condition that certain emendations be made by the Israel Land Authority. The authority submitted the corrections to the Interior Ministry three weeks ago, but since then there has been no response.

A government source was quoted as saying that Interior Ministry officials were instructed by the Prime Minister’s Office to not approve the changes, because the project was too sensitive.

Their approval by the Jerusalem planning committee last December prompted condemnation from UK Minister for the Middle East Alistair Burt, who suggested Israeli construction in East Jerusalem contravened the Geneva Convention.

The Interior Ministry responded that not all the conditions for the plan have been fulfilled — a claim rejected outright by the Israel Land Authority — while the Prime Minister’s Office refused to comment on the matter.

Last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was said to have instructed Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home) to freeze all new tenders on settlement construction. Ariel refused to comment directly on his meeting with Netanyahu, but indicated that reports of a freeze were accurate.

The informal freeze was reportedly linked to a recent US initiative to restart long-stalled peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

Palestinians have been demanding that Israel halt all settlement activity as a precondition for resuming peace talks. Thus far, Netanyahu has maintained that settlement construction was among the issues to be discussed at the negotiating table, along with other final-status issues such as Jerusalem, the Palestinian refugees, borders, and security.

In November 2009, facing mounting pressure from US President Barack Obama, Netanyahu implemented a settlement freeze that lasted 10 months. Talks briefly restarted at the end of that period, but PA President Mahmoud Abbas then aborted them, and Netanyahu did not extend the freeze.

In a speech in Jerusalem in March, Obama urged Israelis to “recognize that continued settlement activity is counterproductive to the cause of peace.” He also told Abbas in Ramallah to get back to the talks without preconditions.

Michal Shmulovich contributed to this report.


dinsdag 11 juni 2013

Israel en Egypte 1973: Valt Willy Brandt van zijn sokkel? (

Het verhaal klinkt inderdaad alsof Willy Brandt zich meer had kunnen inspannen om vrede tussen Egypte en Israel mogelijk te maken, maar ik betwijfel of het kans van slagen had gehad. Eerdere onderhandelingen tussen de twee landen waren immers ook op niets uitgelopen, en de common wisdom over de periode betoogt al jaren dat Egypte eerst met een min-of-meer 'overwinning' (zo vieren de Egyptenaren de Yom Kippoer Oorlog nog steeds) de Arabische eer moest herstellen alvorens hij -vanuit een sterkere positie- tot vredesonderhandelingen kon overgaan.

Valt Willy Brandt van zijn sokkel?

Als het waar zou zijn wat twee historici schrijven in Die Welt, brengen ze sensationeel nieuws: Willy Brandt zou de kans gemist hebben om de Yom-Kippoer-oorlog van 1973 te vermijden. 

De Duitse kanselier Willy Brandt (1913-1992) geniet heiligenverering in Duitsland en ver daarbuiten. De sociaaldemocraat kwam een jaar na mei '68 aan de macht en liet een nieuwe wind door de binnenlandse politiek waaien met leuzen als 'Mehr Demokratie wagen'. Bovendien zocht Willy Brandt (SPD) met zijn Ostpolitik toenadering tot de Oostblokstaten. Zeker het Grundlagenvertrag (Basisverdrag) dat de Bondsrepubliek met de DDR afsloot, brak het ijs tussen de twee Duitse staten. Brandt liet ook een onuitwisbare indruk na op het netvlies van de internationale gemeenschap door op 7 december 1970 bij zijn bezoek aan Warschau een knieval aan het monument voor de Opstand van het Getto van 1943 te maken. De knieval was niet zo spontaan als gedacht – hij was op voorhand grondig doorgepraat op zijn kabinet, zoals een documentaire van een Duitse tv-zender enkele jaren geleden aan het licht bracht –, maar dat doet natuurlijk niets af aan de diepmenselijke betekenis ervan. Zijn bijdrage tot de ontspanningspolitiek leverde Brandt in 1971 de Nobelprijs voor de Vrede op.


Maar heeft Brandt zijn reputatie van vredesapostel daarna nog eer aangedaan? Michael Wolffson, professor aan de Bundeswehruniversität München, en Hagai Tsoref, directeur van de Afdeling Documentatie van het Staatsarchief van Israël beweren in Die Welt van niet. Brandt zou de hoop verkwanseld hebben die Golda Meir, de toenmalige premier van Israël, op hem als vredespoliticus stelde bij zijn bezoek aan Israël in juni 1973. Ze moet gedacht hebben dat de schranderheid en de vastberadenheid die de Duitse bondskanselier in zijn Ostpolitik aan de dag had gelegd, haar wel zouden kunnen helpen bij haar eigen toenaderingspolitiek tot Egypte, bij wat we met een neologisme haar Südpolitik zouden kunnen noemen?  

Volgens de notulen waarop de twee historici zich beroepen, zou Meir haar gast gevraagd hebben om persoonlijk aan de toenmalige Egyptische president Sadat de boodschap over te brengen dat hij, Brandt dus, 'ervan overtuigd was dat wij (Israël) vrede willen, want we willen de Sinaï niet' en dat Isräel bereid was 'geheime onderhandelingen' op te starten. Brandt zou echter het verzoek van Meir overgedragen hebben aan de diplomaat Paul Frank die het op zijn beurt doorspeelde aan een ambtenaar van Buitenlandse Zaken. Golda Meir had op het aura van Brandt gerekend om haar boodschap ingang te doen vinden in Egypte, maar zag met lede ogen hoe een Duitse ambtenaar er tenslotte mee strandde in Cairo. Wolffsohn en Tsoref betreuren dat Brandt niet zelf zijn schouders onder het vredesinitiatief had gezet en het in handen gaf van ondergeschikten die het overbrengen ervan als een lastige karwei ervoeren. Ze menen dat Brandt met zijn charisma en overredingskracht Egypte en Israël dichter bij elkaar had kunnen brengen. Brandt had bovendien de grootmachten geïnformeerd over de wensen van Israël om tot economische samenwerking in het Midden-Oosten te komen, maar vermeldde niet de Israëlische bereidheid om territoriale toegevingen te doen. Daardoor verloor het vredesinitiatief aan spankracht. Vier maand later lanceerden Egypte en Syrië op de joodse feestdag Yom Kippoer een verrassingsaanval tegen Israël. De vredesapostel Willy Brandt had volgens Wolffsohn en Tsoref gefaald.


Nader onderzoek zal moeten uitwijzen of het beeld dat we van Brandt hebben inderdaad van zijn sokkel moet gestoten worden of niet. Spectaculair is het verwijt van de twee historici dat Brandt schuldig verzuim treft alleszins wel. Nu, op elke mythe komen krassen. Over Brandt hebben we altijd geleerd dat hij in 1974 ontslag nam als kanselier omdat zijn persoonlijke secretaris Gunther Guillaume een spion van de DDR was. Ook hier heeft onderzoek uitgewezen dat dit slechts de uiterlijke aanleiding voor zijn aftreden was.  De dieperliggende oorzaak school in het aanvoelen van de kanselier dat hij de zich aandienende economische problemen alleen onder bedwang zou krijgen door zware offers van de maatschappij te vergen en dat hij die verantwoordelijkheid niet wilde torsen.

Het verhaal dat Wolffsohn en Tsoref brengen, relativeert ook de mythe als zou de Duitse politiek onverdeeld pro-Israëlisch zijn. Die indruk krijgen we als we de huidige christendemocratische kanselier Angela Merkel (CDU) de veiligheid van Israël als deel van de Duitse Staatsräson horen bestempelen en als we eraan denken dat Duitsland al vanaf 1958 wapens levert aan Israël, in de vorm van tanks, helikopters, luchtafweerraketten en sinds de jaren '70 duikboten. Willy Brandt zou in de traditielijn van de Duitse sociaaldemocratische partij (waarin vele antizionistische linksen van mei '68 gestroomd waren) niet bijzonder veel belangstelling hebben gehad voor Isräel. Bovendien stond het Auswärtiges Amt – het Duitse ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken, waaraan hij het vredesinitiatief van Meir toevertrouwde  –op dat moment onder leiding van de liberaal Walter Scheel (FDP), wiens toen nog Israël-kritische partij het Akkoord over de Wiedergutmachung van 1952 zelfs had afgewezen.

Het verhaal van Wolffsohn en Tsoref werpt ook de vraag 'wat als?' op, een vraag die niet alleen historici zich graag stellen. Maar daarmee belanden we in het wanhopig makende straatje van een geschiedenis die we wat graag naar onze verlangens zouden willen herschrijven.

- Dirk Rochtus, chef-buitenland (10.06.2013)


Golda Meir deed in 1973 vredesvoorstel aan Egypte via Willy Brandt


Vaak wordt beweerd dat Egypte Israel vrede aanbood in de jaren voor de Yom Kippoer oorlog van 1973. Dat klopt niet helemaal, want wat werd aangeboden ging veel minder ver dan volledige diplomatieke betrekkingen en dat was voor Israel een voorwaarde voor terugtrekking. Nu blijkt dat Golda Meir zelf ook toenaderingspogingen deed, en via Duitsland en andere Europese landen voorstellen deed aan Egypte.

“He can tell Sadat that he, Brandt, is convinced that we truly want peace. That we don’t want all of Sinai, or half of Sinai, or the major part of Sinai. Brandt can make it clear to Sadat that we do not request that he begin negotiations in public, and that we are prepared to begin secret negotiations, etc.,” Meir said in a later meeting.

The documents also revealed that Israel had tried on at least two previous occasions to use a European country as an intermediary to jump-start negotiations with the Egyptians, but to no avail.




Golda Meir offered Egypt most of Sinai for peace before 1973 war

New documents show Israel’s proposal, conveyed via West German channels months before the Yom Kippur War, was bluntly rejected


  June 9, 2013, 1:28 pm 6

Golda Meir (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons) 


Several months before the 1973 Yom Kippur War, then-Israeli prime minister Golda Meir used West German diplomatic channels to offer Egypt most of the Sinai Peninsula in exchange for peace, according to documents released Sunday by the state archives.

During a series of meetings with West German chancellor Willy Brandt, who was making a historic visit to Israel in early June 1973, Meir offered ”to meet with them (the Egyptians) for the first personal contact, anywhere, any time and at any level” and asked Brandt to convey to the Egyptians her desire to meet as well as Israel’s willingness to cede most of the Sinai in a peace treaty with Egypt.

Israel captured the peninsula from Egypt in the 1967 Six Day War. According to the records, Meir was not willing to return completely to the 1967 lines in the event of a handover.

“He can tell Sadat that he, Brandt, is convinced that we truly want peace. That we don’t want all of Sinai, or half of Sinai, or the major part of Sinai. Brandt can make it clear to Sadat that we do not request that he begin negotiations in public, and that we are prepared to begin secret negotiations, etc.,” Meir said in a later meeting.

Prime minister Golda Meir welcoming West German chancellor Willy Brandt at the Lod airport, on June 7, 1973. (photo credit: Moshe Milner, GPO)

West German diplomatic personnel later met in Cairo with Hafiz Ismail, a close adviser to Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, and relayed the Israeli proposal, which Ismail reportedly rejected bluntly.

As long as Israel was not willing to return completely to the 1967 lines, there was no point in negotiations, he reportedly said, adding that there would be no “talks about talks.” Ismail, during the meeting, held forth about world indifference to the situation in the Arab world and said that ”from now on, the Arabs’ fate is in their own hands.”

Several months later Egypt and Syria launched the Yom Kippur War, in October 1973, on Judaism’s holiest day, catching Israel by surprise. Egypt made great initial gains in the Sinai, which were subsequently turned around by an Israeli counteroffensive before a truce was declared.

Israel retained possession of the Sinai, but later, in 1978, Egypt entered into a deal resembling Meir’s proposal as a result of the Camp David Accords, and over the next few years the entire Sinai was returned to Egypt.

The release by the state archives revealed many more details of chancellor Brandt’s visit, which took place against the fallout of the 1972 Munich Massacre. The archives note that Brandt was lukewarm about West Germany acting as an intermediary between Israel and Egypt, and sent a relatively low-level diplomatic agent to Egypt to convey Meir’s offer.

The documents also revealed that Israel had tried on at least two previous occasions to use a European country as an intermediary to jump-start negotiations with the Egyptians, but to no avail.


Palestijnen eisen 'recht op terugkeer' in VN Mensenrechtenraad

He spoke during Agenda Item 7, in which the UNHRC is mandated at every session to debate Israeli actions against the Palestinians over the pre-1967 lines.”

Dat is dus het probleem: tijdens iedere sessie van de VN mensenrechtenraad zijn Israels (vermeende) mensenrechtenschendingen tegenover de Palestijnen een apart agendapunt. Palestijns extremisme en en het verheerlijken van geweld tegen Israelische burgers is dat natuurlijk niet, en ook de onbeschrijflijke wreedheden van het Syrische regime tegen zijn eigen burgers zijn dat niet. Geen enkel ander land staat automatisch iedere sessie op de agenda. Alleen Israel valt die eer ten deel. Geen wonder dat Israel de banden met de mensenrechtenraad (waarin ondemocratische landen en dictaturen de overhand hebben) heeft verbroken. Wat hier telkens weer wordt opgevoerd is een toneelstuk met een wel erg beperkt script, en de Westerse staten zouden niet langer legitimiteit aan deze poppenkast moeten geven.

Dat het zogenaamde ‘recht op terugkeer’ van alle miljoenen nakomelingen van de vluchtelingen indruist tegen vrede en een tweestatenoplossing, moge duidelijk zijn. Toch spreekt nauwelijks iemand de Palestijnen daarop aan. Nee, het enige obstakel voor vrede zijn altijd de nederzettingen... 
Palestinians call for right of return at UNHRC


06/11/2013 00:59

During Agenda 7, PLO deputy urges Israel to recognize refugees.



The PLO called for the right of return for Palestinian refugees to Israel during a debate on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday.

Israel must “recognize the right of return of refugees to their homeland, without selectivity or conditionality, including to the cities they were ejected from,” Imad Zuhairi, the PLO’s deputy charge d’affairs of its UN Observer Mission in Geneva, told the UNHRC. 

He spoke during Agenda Item 7, in which the UNHRC is mandated at every session to debate Israeli actions against the Palestinians over the pre-1967 lines.

Monday’s debate comes in the midst of a renewed effort by US Secretary of State John Kerry to re-kindle direct Israeli-Palestinian talks, which have been largely frozen since 2008.

Kerry had been expected to return to Israel and the Palestinian territories this week, but as of press time, it appeared that his trip had been delayed.

The UNHRC debate showed that wide gaps still remain in the public discourse on conflict.

Israel has cut its ties with the council and was not present at the debate. But it has claimed that the concept of the right of return for Palestinians to the State of Israel undermines the basic principle of a two-state solution.

It has explained that Palestinian refugees should have a right of return only to a newly created Palestinian state, in keeping with the concept that a twostate solution is based on the idea of a Palestinian state as a homeland for Palestinians and Israel as the homeland for the Jewish people.

Similarly, Israel has rejected the idea of a two-state solution on pre-1967 lines or halting settlement activity as a pre-condition for talks.

But Zuhairi told the council that “We call on Israel to stop its occupation of the occupied state of Palestine.”

He explained that this meant that Israel must stop settlement activity, the “Judaization” of Jerusalem and the excavation under al-Aksa Mosque.

Israel should return to “direct negotiations that would recognize the borders of ’67 as the borders of the sovereign Palestinian state, with al-Quds as its eternal capital,” Zuhari said.

He urged Israel to stop “its terrorism as a state, the terrorism of settlers and the terrorism of the occupation army.

“The future of Israel is directly linked to the future of the sovereign independent state of Israel,” Zuhari said.

He added that “The Palestinian leadership still believes in the two-state solution. We must give another chance to current international efforts that would lead to achieving aspirations of the Palestinian people in order to exercise its right to an independent state, the return of the refugees and the release of all prisoners.”

Many of the 31 countries that followed issued statements that similarly called on Israel to halt settlement activity, lift its military blockade of the Gaza border, release all Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails, and remove the security barrier it had built in the West Bank.

A number of countries, including Syria, also called on Israel to return the Golan Heights to Syria.

On behalf of the IBSA bloc – which also includes India and South Africa – Brazil said that freezing settlement activity was not a pre-condition to talks, but rather an obligation under international law.

It added that it supported a contiguous and democratic Palestinian state. It reminded the UNHRC that IBSA has welcomed the Palestinian request for full UN membership, as a key step toward statehood. •


Wat is er over van Israels vrede met haar buren?

Wordt een warmere vrede met Egypte en Jordanië verhinderd door het voortduren van het conflict met de Palestijnen, of zou er ook na een vredesovereenkomst met de PA en het stichten van een Palestijnse staat een structurele animositeit blijven? Bij de vredesovereenkomst met beide landen was ook voorzien in (of vooruitgelopen op) een oplossing van de Palestijnse kwestie, maar die is vooralsnog uitgebleven. Vrede met de Palestijnen ligt een stuk moeilijker dan met de buurlanden, omdat beide volken nog steeds (delen van) hetzelfde grondgebied claimen.
Maar ook na een oplossing hiervan is allerminst zeker dat alles pais en vree zou worden. De Arabische staten worstelen met extremistische en anti-democratische bewegingen in de oppositie en deels in de regeringen, en allerlei interne problemen en onvrede, die het zoeken van een zondebok aanlokkelijk maken; Israel/de Joden en de VS/het Westen zijn daarvoor al sinds jaar en dag de favoriete zondebokken.
What's left of Israel's peace with its neighbors?
Ties with Jordan and Egypt are cool and growing colder, diplomats say, with new challenges adding fragility to relations already freighted with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
When skeptics despair of Israel's ability to finalize a peace treaty with the Palestinians, Israeli officials often evoke Israel's peace agreements with two of its Arab neighbors, Egypt and Jordan, as proof that success can be reached.

But experts and officials say a nuanced look at relations with the two neighbors tells a story of a cold peace that is only growing chillier.

Israeli diplomats with knowledge of both countries were unwilling or unable to openly discuss ties, a resonant reminder that any misplaced statement could destroy the extremely fragile relations.

In Jordan, perceived Israeli violations of the status quo of Jerusalem's holy sites, over which Jordan maintains a custodianship, have angered Amman, and the parliament there recently voted to expel Israeli ambassador Daniel Nevo.

Israel receives "continuous and systematic" complaints about Israeli actions on Jerusalem's Temple Mount, a knowledgeable diplomat told The Times of Israel, but added that Israeli-Jordanian relations are "mature" in the understanding of both sides of how important the relations are.

Still, Israel's relations with Jordan are now at a low point, the diplomat said, though not the lowest they've ever been. He was likely referring to the crisis that followed Israel's botched assassination attempt of Hamas political leader Khaled Mashaal in Amman in September 1997.

Added to the mix is the elephant in the room — the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — which heavily colors relations with both Cairo and Amman.

"Israel and Jordan are on a strategic collision course," said Assaf David, who teaches Jordanian politics at Jerusalem's Hebrew University. "If no two-state solution emerges, at whose expense will the Palestinian issue be resolved?"

In Amman, security considerations prevent Israeli diplomats from living with their families. The embassy staff cross the Allenby Bridge over the Jordan River every weekend to spend time with their loved ones. On January 14, 2010, two roadside charges were detonated next to a diplomatic convoy traveling from the embassy to Allenby Bridge. The ambassador, who was in one of the vehicles, was not harmed, but the two vehicles were.

Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin (left) shakes the hand of Jordan's King Hussein at the signing of the bilateral peace treaty, October 1994 (photo credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90)
Then-Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin (left) shakes the hand of Jordan's King Hussein at the signing of the bilateral peace treaty, October 1994. (photo credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90)

David says that Israel and Jordan's diplomatic ties and security cooperation are vastly disconnected, the former gradually declining since the Mashaal assassination attempt in 1997 and the latter remaining consistently good. But as long as no hope exists for a peaceful resolution of the Palestinian issue, Israel and Jordan can never normalize relations.

Nevertheless, with few Arab allies in the region, King Abdullah is, "unbearably, as far as he's concerned," dependent on Benjamin Netanyahu as a strategic partner to counter the Syrian threat, David said.

Shimon Shamir, an emeritus professor at Tel Aviv University who served both as Israel's first ambassador to Jordan (starting in 1994), and as ambassador to Egypt (from 1988 to 1990), claimed that neither Israel nor Jordan invested adequate efforts in maintaining their strategic alliance.

In a book published last year titled "The Rise and Fall of the Warm Peace with Israel," Shamir argues that, unlike the Camp David Peace accords with Egypt — which were largely a strategic agreement designed to prevent another war — the agreement with Jordan was about cooperation and normalization.

"Half of the peace agreement with Jordan deals with cooperation. That's the crux of the agreement. It was supposed to be an opening to a different kind of peace, not like the one with Egypt."

Israel unnecessarily embarrassed King Hussein — a staunch supporter of warm peace with Israel — by attempting to assassinate Hamas leader Mashaal, he claimed.

"Israel should have understood that we are in the same boat as Jordan," said Shamir.

A number of ambitious joint projects with Jordan "which were meant to change the face of the Middle East" never materialized, Shamir added, due to a lack of political will on both sides — a joint airport, a joint seaport, an industrial park near the Dead Sea, and a canal connecting the Red and Dead seas.

The situation in Egypt is even gloomier.

Israeli officials tacitly indicate that Israel has grudgingly agreed to forgo the pleasures of normalization with Egypt in order to maintain the tight security coordination with its military establishment, especially at a time when terrorism in Sinai is rampant. Keeping jihadists at bay continues to be a strong, joint interest of both Egypt and Israel.

Israel can never normalize its relations with Egypt as long as the conflict with the Palestinians remains unresolved, Shamir said. But he still believed that things could be worse.

"One encouraging thing is that there is almost no opposition to the very idea of peace with Israel," he said.

The popular demonstrations that toppled Hosni Mubarak in February 2011 quickly engulfed the Israeli Embassy in Cairo, which was closely associated with the former regime in public perception.

In September 2011, angry protesters broke through the embassy walls and stormed the building, removing the Israeli flag and coming within one room of the Israeli staff and security detail. An Egyptian elite force prevented a massacre at the last moment, but the embassy was ransacked and subsequently shut by authorities.

In the 21 months since, an alternative embassy was never found; the official reason is the inability to locate a building with adequate security provisions. As of today, the embassy staff hold meetings in public locations around Cairo, shuttling back and forth to and from Israel.

"That situation is certainly abnormal," Shamir claimed, noting that from his first day in office he realized that the embassy, situated near the riotous campus of Cairo University, was badly located.

Yitzhak Levanon, who served as Israel's ambassador to Cairo when the mob stormed his embassy, told The Times of Israel last September that the gradual deterioration in relations began as early as Hosni Mubarak's rise to power in 1981, but has accelerated since the election of President Mohammed Morsi last June.

"The Muslim Brotherhood is simply not interested in normalization," Levanon said. "Israel will need to get used to that new reality."

But though Shamir says the peace with Egypt was born of convenience and not true friendship, he says his time as ambassador in the late 1980s was marked by a high level of cooperation.

"In my time, the relations with Egypt were much closer," he recalled. "We had joint projects: First we bought oil and then we started to buy natural gas, before that too stopped. El Al flights took place a few times a week, with delegations visiting almost every week. All this no longer exists."

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